CMO demonstrates how to design marketing campaigns to capture the attention of your customers and prospects.


Today we are going to demonstrate how to capture the attention of customers and prospects with great marketing campaigns. Campaign budgets are limited and these campaigns need to generate revenue. The emerging best practice for planning campaigns requires a scientific approach to dial in the results. Today’s show provides the definitive guide to campaign planning from the first step through the entire campaign planning process. Michael leverages the How to Make Your Number in 2018 Workbook to access emerging best practices as a guide for our questions. Review the Campaign Strategy and Planning phase starting on page 264 of the Marketing Strategy section.


Our guest is Michael Callahan the Chief Marketing Officer for Firemon, one of the hottest cyber security firms performing enterprise security management. Firemon helps organizations with complex IT environments keep the bad guys out by providing a single view of what’s going on in someone’s infrastructure. Michael will demonstrate how to capture the attention of customers and prospects.


Why this topic? Every market has a “sweet spot.” Campaigns (and their budgets) generate revenues when focused directly at this “sweet spot.” Campaigns that are not hyper-targeted do not. To generate a return on marketing campaign dollars requires a clear objective, timeline, budget, accurate lists, correct media mix, and compelling calls to action.


Executing successful campaigns to capture attention of your target prospects require a scientific approach to increase the probability of success. The emerging best practice is to document your campaign approach through a proven campaign planning process that delivers the right message, to the right audience, in the right format, at the right time. You can download a copy of the Marketing Campaign Planning Framework tool to follow along.


Below is a transcript of the interview with Michael. If you would prefer to review the HD Video, click here.   


How do you develop campaign objectives, timelines, budgets, and expected results? 


It all starts, initially, with what’s your company strategy? It must be aligned with that. It’s sometimes easy for people, and even in smaller companies, but particularly in larger companies, to get a little bit distracted on the thing being the campaign versus the thing being, “How do we drive revenue? How are we going to hit our number? How are we going to execute on the strategy we have?” So, it all starts with, “What is the strategy?” And then build a campaign out of that. 


Let’s talk about your use case here, so what is your company strategy? 


We’re going to lead the market, so ours is, grow faster than the market, faster than our competitors, take share, and continue to innovate, drive business, double-digit growth from new and existing customers. 


How would we cascade that strategy down to something like a campaign objective? 


A couple of ways. Often things like in a decision tree kind of format. First off, what’s the audience? Right? You always want to start with who you’re trying to talk to or approach, and so you make that fundamental decision, and there’s a couple of choices there. There’s one like, it may be partners, because maybe you’re selling through partners and not directly to an end user, or another one could be, you’re talking to the end user directly, or, I’m sorry, to an existing customer, or new customers. In our case, we have focused the marketing team on the new piece. Right? Because we have dedicated field resources out with the customers, working with them every day, the current customers, to make sure they’re happy, satisfied, getting value from the product, and then selling them additional solutions they may need. 


We’ve made the trade-off that that’s where they’re going to focus, so when we build the campaigns, we’re focused almost exclusively on generating new business or going to new customers. 


That’s a great example. Your company strategy is, you want to lead the market, to grow faster than the market and your competitors. That’s going to require you to acquire lots and lots of new customers. So, having a campaign objective tied to new customer acquisition makes all the sense in the world. 


In fact, it’s key. If you look at just about any business, there is a maximum amount that you’re ever going to get from your existing customers. Now, you may continue to develop some new solutions, and you could increase that at a certain rate, but the growth would slow down over time. The lifeblood is bringing in new, and we made that very intentional trade-off. Marketing team is going to focus on bringing in new people, where the sales team will focus more on the existing people. 


Right. Now, one of the challenging things is that your team comes to you, they lay out a campaign design. “We want to launch this campaign for these reasons,” and then you’re going to say, “Great. How many new customers is that going to get us?” 


And they’re going to say, “Well, I don’t know, because of this attribution problem, and that attribution problem,” so it makes it difficult for you to say, “Okay, go ahead and spend the money.” 


So how do you handle that tricky balance of art and science, and trying to forecast what the results of an individual campaign may be? 


I think you used the right phrase there. It is, it’s a balance of art and science, especially because you’re talking about people and you’re talking to people, and you’re communicating to them through a certain type of word, or a tone, or a style, and certain creative, you’ve got to make sure that you’re balancing that art and science right. What I try to do is, I look at both sides of that and say, “Is this compelling creative? Is this compelling tone?” And if we pass that box, then I’ll move over to the other one and say, “Now, what do we think the returns are going to be?” The more metrics you can have that show historically how things have moved through the funnel from number of inquiries you might get or conversions, you can kind of reverse-engineer the math to say, “Yeah, this does look like what we’re going to get, in terms of number of new customers, if we execute this way and hit these targets.” 


But then you got to monitor all along. You must all the way through, say, “Well, how is it doing?” And not just wait till the end of a six-month campaign to see, oh, it worked, or it didn’t work. You got to, right off the bat, say, “Are we hitting the numbers or not?” 


And then tweak it along the way based on that, right? 


Absolutely. Yes. 


Okay, so I led off the show talking about the importance of understanding the sweet spot in our market. One of the things that drives me crazy is that we work with guys like you, and we say, “So tell me about your market,” and they’re like, “Yeah, it’s a $100 billion market.” Okay, so within that, your sweet spot, and then making sure that we’re allocating our resources, which is people, money, and time, exclusively on that sweet spot, so that we don’t leak valuable resources, because that’s the one constraint we all have. There’s only so many people, only so much time, and only so much money, right? So, what is your sweet spot, and how did you guys figure that out? 


Well, so for us, we found there’s a couple of numbers. One of them is, if someone has more than about 20 security devices, and in this case, you could almost use that interchangeably with firewalls, it’s too hard for them to manage it themselves, and so they need some sort of help, which is what we do with security management, or if they have multiple vendors. So, most companies will have a dual or even more vendor strategy, because they don’t want to be tied to one tech, one technology, and if you have these multiple technologies, those vendors are not incented at all to help manage the other vendors, because they want to be exclusive. And so, if we see those, if we look at just the environment, we know that’s a sweet spot for us. 


There’s another dynamic or another angle where you’d say, “Well, maybe a particular industry,” so we find that there are certain industries that are much more dependent on security, and then because of that, depending on us, or dependent on us. Finance is an example. Healthcare is an example. A lot of what we deal with are compliance and audit-type situations, and companies that are under compliance regulations, like PCI, which stands for Payment Card Industry. They store credit card data, so they need to go through these audits, make sure that they’re compliant. That’s a sweet spot for us. 


So, we know, we have a couple of variables that we look at, and then we hone in on the combination of those, and market to those as effective as we can. It’s not perfect but the better you, or closer you can get to the sweet spot, the better. 


I like to say, you’re going to throw a net. You hope you throw the net at the right fish, but you’re going to catch some things in the net that aren’t the fish that you want. It’s just the nature of it, nature, right? 


Yes. That’s right. 


Earlier, you mentioned, when you were evaluating whether to green-light a campaign, that you look at how compelling is the creative, so the artwork, the copy writing, etc. How do you guys develop value propositions in such a way that it just doesn’t sound like industry gobbledygook and using the same words that everybody else uses? 


It’s so hard, I’ll tell you that, because especially in technology, and even more so in security, everyone does sound the same, and everyone uses very similar words, has a similar approach. What I’m doing, which I think is innovative in our space, that there’s a few companies that are kind of leading this, and it’s to take this typical B2B-type mentality, or B2B messaging and creative, and replace it with more of the B2C-type stuff. So as consumers, we all have different sites, different creative, different ads, different whatever, that we like and we’re drawn to, and then there’s this crazy thing happens is, you go into the office, and you’re selling to other companies, and you completely forget that, and you just create boring creative and boring messaging. We’re taking a lot of risks and trying to innovate in that area so that it is, people do feel like it’s more personal to them, where the consumer companies have done a wonderful job making people feel like you’re talking to them one on one, where the B2B companies in general, it’s just, “Let’s produce a bunch of stuff and throw it out there.” We’ve been trying to innovate in that area and really make that so people feel like we’re talking directly to them. 


Do you do your own creative, or do you have an agency that helps you with that, or a combo? 


We go outside for it. I’ve worked in both models. What I found is that internally, even though you try to not do it, you end up getting blinders, and you end up being … You don’t see the possibilities. And so, I found it better if I go outside for the creative piece, and it’s worked well. 


In our way of thinking of things, a campaign is a collection of programs, okay? What you see on the board here is typically the eight types of programs most B2B marketing organizations run, and they are awareness, self-explanatory. 


Cross-sell. You buy one product from me today, I want you to buy the other three. New logo, which is obviously very important to you. That’s new customer. Competitive replacements, so maybe in a more mature industry, I’ve got to get somebody to swap out the bad guys to be successful. Renewals, which is very important in the SaaS space. Migration, so I’m on the old stuff, I want to migrate you to the new stuff. And then nurture campaigns, which is an important but difficult one, which is, I may have captured someone’s attention, but they’re not actively in the market right now, so I need to nurture them for a period of time. We probably only have time for you and me to talk to maybe about a couple of these, so let me cherry-pick a few of them. You mentioned earlier that your team is focused on new logo acquisition, right? Do you have specific programs that you run there for new logos? 


You want to have a nice, balanced mix of tactics or activities. I’ll give a little bit of an evolution, though. When I came into the role, we were, as a lot of startups are, very event-based; so, we would be at trade shows, industry events, and you captured a lot of names. It’s hard to tell if they’re qualified, right? There was some qualification because they were at the event, and so it wasn’t like they were looking for bicycles and they just happened to end up with security tools; but they’re not as qualified, as in there’s very little metrics that you can apply to it, so when we did it, we migrated heavily from that over to more digital campaigns. 


Events are still part of our mix, but we do more digital, so it is more paid search, some banners and AdWords, email marketing, database marketing. Email’s one of the tactics you might use, but we’re trying to do much more on the digital side than just on the event side. Every once in a while, you might do physical direct mail to grab someone’s attention if it’s something that’s interesting and really targeted. When you’re … It’s much more expensive to do a physical piece than something electronic. 


That’s a great example for the audience. So, audience members, what you just heard there is that you’ve got this program we call, “New logo campaign,” and what you just heard from Michael was there’s a series of things that you do that collectively equal that program, all designed against the goal of opening new logos. What about maybe competitive replacement? I mean, do you guys have any competitors and do you have to go after them, or is it just greenfield all over the place? 


We started this 10, 15 years ago. We were there, we were by ourselves for a while, but now that we have three, four, five competitors in the space … Competitive displacement is always one that’s, it’s really interesting to me, because I find that there’s this dynamic that, internally, it just makes people feel good to say, “We’re going to go and do a rip and replace and we’re going to get rid of that competitor,” and like it’s just that easy to do. 


But there is this bonding element to it, to get every … Like as everyone kind of coalesces around that idea of ripping out a competitor. In practice, though, it’s a lot more difficult, and what I found is, someone’s going to move if they’re really irritated with you. But by you sending them … Especially in the security space, by sending an offer, even if it’s a financial offer, you can almost give the product away, but because security solutions are so embedded in people’s environments, it’s hard for them to remove it, right? 


They could have dozens of years of experience with something, and you just saying, “Hey, here’s a promo,” or, “You can have the product free and I’ll just charge you maintenance,” rarely works. The reason they change, and there’s multiple reasons, but the predominant one is they’re just mad at the current vendor, and something’s gone wrong, or they failed an audit, or they’ve had a breach, or something’s gone horribly wrong. And in that case, them moving has nothing to do with what you might do. They’re going to move because they’re irritated. Now, you can help them along those paths, but at least in our space, to try to get someone to move, difficult. 


For the audience, so the big takeaway there is you’ve got eight programs you can choose from. Those are just a couple of them for you to consider, but as you’re thinking about planning your campaigns, think about, kind of, the portfolio of programs that you may run, and the activities underneath those. So that takes me to my next question, which is about activities. Choosing the right mix of activities, and most importantly the sequencing of these activities, is particularly important. 


For example, direct mail, email, webinar, blog. How do you sequence those things out? Do you run them all at the same time? You mentioned digital marketing, which, the tactic list there could be several hundred things you could do. Do you do them sequentially, one at a time? What’s your thoughts there? 


Yes. It’s hard to do it, like, have a perfect sequence, because people are often at different parts of the buying process. And there’s some really validated statistics that say, at least in B2B, people are getting 60 to 70% of the way through the process before they ever even engage a sales rep, and so they’re doing a lot of research on their own. And so, you want to be where they are, and so you almost must do a lot of things simultaneously, so that when they’re looking for, wherever they happen to be in the process, they find the information that they’re looking for. 


If you can talk to someone or engage with them digitally, regardless of how you got to them, it could be an AdWord, it could be an email … Once you start that dialogue, then it’s much more intentional because you know what they clicked on or what they were interested in, and then you can set up nurture streams that are related to that, to take him through and touch him. As much as you want: It could be weekly, if that’s the kind of business you’re in, or it could be not quite as frequently; but I think the first part may be less intentional, it’s a little broader net. But then, once you start the dialogue, you can say, “I’m going to take them through these steps because we think these are the most logical ones that they’re going to be interested in.” 


Let me share with you a concept that we talk to our clients about, and I want to get your opinion on this. So, you mentioned that a buyer’s journey, they’re moving through the buyer’s journey much more in a self-directed way before they talk to a human. Okay, you probably do that in your personal life. I avoid salespeople whenever I can, so I agree with those stats, is it 60%, 100%, 20%, doesn’t matter, it’s happening, okay? Now, what we help our clients with is, the first thing we help them with is to understand that buyer’s journey. Maybe by product, maybe by segment, maybe by customer type, etc. And we do things like touch-point analysis, and sentiment analysis, and things of that nature, to try to figure that out; and you can get a pretty good feel for it, because the web analytics tools these days are powerful. 


Then you build a sales process that says, “Okay,” sales 101 says, “Sell the way the customer wants to buy,” okay? So, if you understand what the journey is, act appropriately at different steps. The third piece that people always forget, and for a marketer, this is the most important piece, is what I call the decision process. You’ve got the buying process, the sales process, the decision process; and the decision process is the emotional journey that a buyer goes through before they make a decision. 


And we lose sight of this. We think that our buyers are linear, they just go through this linear path, they’re robots. They really don’t care about emotions, and logic, and TCO, and business case justification, and feature set comparison, and all of this is going to make a difference. In the end, humans are selling to humans. I’m a human. I’m saying to myself, 


  • “Geez, if I make this purchase, does it risk my job?”
  • “How do I look in front of my peers?
  • Do I trust these guys?
  • “If something goes wrong, can I count on them to help me?”
  • I’m a skeptic, “Are the claims they’re making real?” “I’m concerned with X. ” “These guys claim leader … Are they really? What happens if they go out of business?” 


There’s this emotional soup that they all sit in, right? Ultimately, you must connect with them emotionally, and you got to put an offer in front of them that inspires them to act.  How do you develop your offers? 


You’re on something that’s, it’s critically important. It’s part of the process, and I think you’ll see if you don’t do that, deals just die. They just die, and it’s not like they even went to someone else. They just stop. So, you must connect, and I think a lot of people forget that part of the process is that you need to be engaged. You need to be emotionally engaged. I think part of that comes down to the relationship that the sales rep has built along the way that they feel like you are looking out for their best interest; so, one of the things that we try to do is, it’s not just, “Here is the TCO,” or, “Here’s the ROI,” because that’s relatively easy, right? You can build models around just about anything unless you’re completely off-base, it’s going to build … You can justify that you have a good business case. What we try to do, though, is help the person that we’re selling to or talking to see how this is going to help them, and bring some … Like, we try to make them the hero of the story, if you will, right, and bring them statistics that they can use, or facts, maybe, that they didn’t know about prior, that they can. 


When we leave the room and we’re not, they’re by themselves, they can be sharing internally, and it makes them the hero, right? They seem insightful and intelligent about what’s going on, and it leads to a better position overall for them. If you can do that, of course, you must have a product that’s going to do what it says it’s going to do, but if you can make the person that’s buying the hero in all this, that emotional connection is unbelievably valuable, right? Almost priceless. 


To do this, you got to have a lot of content, content assets, and they’ve got to be mapped to the buyer’s journey. So, how do you guys handle content? How do you map it to the buyer’s journey? 


There’s a couple of things, I think, to think about there. One of them is: People, they simply don’t have time to figure things out. Right? So, you may have the most rock-solid proof, logic-built message, right? And there’s no way that anybody could ever dispute any part of it. But it’s so complicated that no one knows what you’re talking about and they just move on, because they have a million things to do and there’s at least several other people in your space that are saying it more, possibly saying it more clearly. 


You’ve got to focus on that. People, I often use a phrase, that people have choices, you’ve got to give them a reason to choose you, but you can’t expect them to figure it out. You’ve got to, it’s got to be clear. So, I think that’s one piece. There’s another piece that we focus on, and I like to call this, it’s our, “Before and after,” marketing, right? Everyone loves the extreme makeover shows, the fixer-upper from the folks down at Waco, right? Everyone loves to see “This is what it looked like,” and it could be a body transformation, if you’re working out, or it could be a house. I use that, because it’s so personal, and people can see, “Oh, yes, my life did … It was horrible before this, but look what it could be, right? It could be so awesome.” So, what we do is try to find those use cases or those problems that people will identify with and give the before and after, and if we’ve done it right, I think we have most of the time, the “before” they immediately identify with, and the “after,” they see this wonderful future and a vision of what things could be. 


I’m assuming if I think about a buyer’s journey, even a circular one, the before comes before the after, correct? 


Yes. Absolutely right, so you would get their attention with that, and then there may be multiple steps in there, or it may be the next step, but you could say, “Here’s what it looks like before,” and then you can show some content along the way that says, “Here’s how you get to the after,” and then, “Ta-da, here’s the after.” 


Okay, so where we are now in our conversation is, we’ve got all these beautifully designed campaigns and strategically aligned campaigns out in the market, and they’re generating inquiries, okay? And now you’ve got a process, the demand, so to speak, which means you need systems and people. 


So, tell me how you process the demand. 


We use a combination of machine qualification and people in the process, so not everything that comes inbound is qualified or is ready to talk to someone. They could have just been interested in a whitepaper, as an example, so not unlike other companies, we do scoring. An inbound lead gets a score from zero to something. We pick a threshold, and when we hit that threshold, it goes over to someone to look at it for someone to personally call them back and qualify further and then pop it over to a rep. 


I get the machine. Many people want to argue about the validity of lead scoring. I say you’re missing the point. Right? Don’t worry about you being precise. Be directionally correct, right? What are you trying to do? 




Machine or person. 




Then you send it to a human. 




Is that human a lead qualifier in marketing? Is a human a salesperson? 


I’ve seen it go either way. Where I found it more successful is in marketing, because they’re more closely tied to the funnel, how they got to that point, where if you’re really doing it right, the salespeople are, they’re at the point where they’re engaging someone, really understanding their problems and then moving through the cycle, so I found it better when they’re in the marketing department, and also, despite everyone’s best efforts, if it’s in the marketing department, that feedback on quality is just closer and so you can adapt the upstream activities to improve the quality, and even though a rep may want to, they’re doing a million things, and them taking the time to call back and say, “Oh, by the way, that one that you sent me, here’s what the … ” It just doesn’t happen very often. 


In-house, or do you outsource that? 


In-house for us. I have gone outsource a couple of times, and I’ve found that there’s a use, there’s a good use case for going outside, and where I found it was if I’m dealing with a lot of volume and maybe I want to get people to an event. I found a lot of success going outside, having people call, qualify someone, or do a light qualification, and then getting them to attend an event, but when it’s the leads coming in that are specific to your organization, I found it better inside. 


All right, last question, the mother of all questions. This is the question I get asked the most by you and your peers, and that is revenue attribution. Okay? It’s super hard to do. First touch, last touch, linear, nonlinear, signal attribution. I mean, you name it. There’s like 800 statistical models that claim to be the perfect one, so what’s your opinion on revenue attribution? 


You got to look at multiple things. You can’t look at any particular one, and from that, you can decide or understand if something’s working or not. What I do like to see is, if you set up your processes intentionally and really thought through what you want to track at each step, you can get pretty close to attribution from leads coming in, converting to a qualify, to an opportunity, and then to close business. If you set up your systems right to track that, you have pretty good visibility into what’s working and what isn’t. There’s always going to be that conflict of a salesperson may have found it, or a lead came in, or you’re working with a partner, and at the same time, someone registered something and you’re always going to have that. 


There’s no perfect answer to that, but what I have found is, if I can get the systems set up to take me from lead to business, to close business, I have directionally what’s working and what isn’t, I can then go click down into the specific campaigns and say, in these campaigns, “What are the tactics that are working, and where should I invest more or less?” But the key to that isn’t the reporting. It’s setting up the systems to be able to track it, and that’s where it’s hard. Right? That is a lot of really hard work. You must be thoughtful of what the whole context you’re working in, but if you invest the time to do it, you get some pretty good data and insight that’ll come out of it. 


All right, Michael, we’re out of time, but thanks for coming to the studio and being on set today. We learned a lot from you.


Have expectations gone up and left you wondering if you have the right marketing strategy to support the new revenue growth goals? Here is an interactive tool that will help you understand if you have a chance at success. Take the Revenue Growth Diagnostic test and rate your Marketing Strategy against SBI’s emerging best practices to find out if: 


  • Your marketing objectives are realistic
  • You will earn your bonus
  • You are set-up for success in 2018


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Matt Sharrers

Leads the firm's focus on the CEO’s role in accelerating revenue growth by embracing emerging best practices to grow revenue faster than the industry and competitors. 

Matt Sharrers is the CEO of SBI, a management consulting firm specialized in sales and marketing that is dedicated to helping you Make Your Number. Forbes recognizes SBI as one of The Best Management Consulting Firms in 2017.


Over the course of nearly a decade at SBI, Matt Sharrers was an instrumental early partner guiding SBI as the Senior Partner. Matt’s functional responsibilities included acting as the head of sales where he led SBI’s double-digit revenue growth, and was responsible for the hiring function to build SBI’s team of revenue generation experts.


Prior to joining SBI in 2009, Matt spent eleven years leading sales and marketing teams as a Vice President of Sales. Matt has “lived in the field.” As a result, he is the foremost expert in the art of separating fact from fiction as it relates to revenue growth best practices. CEOs and Private equity investors turn to Matt’s team at SBI when they need to unlock trapped growth inside of their companies.



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